Making a hash out of everything

chuckIt pains me to admit this, but Jess and I are terrible when it comes to leftovers. Oh, sure, we always start off with the best intentions, swearing that we’ll eat those leftover peas, cold spaghetti, and other ephemera that wind up tucked into plastic dishes and stowed in the fridge. All too often, though, that’s where it ends — or rather, it ends with those same dishes being emptied into the garbage disposal after days of marinating in neglect behind the milk and the eggs.

It’s just me and Jess for the majority of our meals, and while I’ve become pretty adept at cooking for two over the years, there are still times when I make too much. Case in point: I found a good deal on a huge chuck roast at the market yesterday and decided to make one of our favorite dishes, beef bourguignon. It turned out great, and we ate our fill of the red wine-braised beef, but there was still quite a bit remaining. I put it in the fridge and swore that I’d do something with it — you know, for real this time.

So today, the conundrum: what to do with the beef. Jess recalled that her mom used to make roast beef hash out of their leftovers when she was a kid, and a couple of text messages confirmed that it wasn’t hard to make. A quick trip to Target for some pre-shredded hashbrowns (and some Twizzlers, but I digress) had us ready to make dinner. The result…was delicious. It’s not an attractive dish, but the taste is excellent.

Roast Beef Hash

  • photo 1(7)Two cups shredded or diced potatoes
  • One onion, diced
  • ~2 cups cubed roast beef
  • Pan sauce gravy. If you made gravy the day before with the first round of beef, use the leftovers — just thin with some water and re-heat. I used the beef stock/wine mixture I had left for a classic gravy: make a butter and flour roux, stir in the stock, stir until thickened.
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a non-stick skillet, saute your onions until they become opaque. Add the potatoes, and some salt and pepper, and stir to mix. Allow your potato and onion mixture to hang out for awhile — you’ll need to do some minimal stirring, but you want to give everything time to get a little browned and crispy.

When the potatoes have reached your desired crispiness, add in the roast beef and one cup of the gravy. Stir until mixed, then cook on medium heat until everything is nice and hot. The result is a wonderfully gooey dish that will satisfy with its hearty flavor. We served ours up with some steamed broccoli, and it was a nice meat-and-potatoes meal that served our leftovers nicely. Enjoy!

photo 2(9)



Turmeric tea

Turmeric1Turmeric is a bright yellow spice from the root of the curcuma plant. It’s usually used in curries, although most people come into contact with it when it’s used as food coloring — bright yellow American mustards almost always use the spice.

But it’s the spice’s reputation as an anti-inflammatory agent that really got me interested in the stuff. Some years back, I had an extremely invasive procedure done to remove a tumor from the center of my spinal cord, and this has left me with some pretty annoying chronic pain. In addition to that, as I reach my mid-30s, I realize that I’m not as spry as I used to be, and that means more aches and pains when I push things too hard. Since I try not to rely on pain relievers, I’m always willing to try methods of pain relief that aren’t addictive — and in the case of this turmeric tea, the medicine goes down pretty easy.

Turmeric Tea (adapted from 101 Cookbooks)

  • photo 51/3 cup honey. I asked my followers on Twitter yesterday what the best kind of honey is available here locally, and many of them recommended K-Bee honey, and after trying it, I agree.
  • 3 teaspoons turmeric powder. I get mine from a local Chinese grocery store.
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Lemon (optional)
  • Black pepper (optional)

Combine your honey, turmeric, and cinnamon together in a mortar, working the mixture until it forms a smooth paste. Once you’ve made your paste, immediately transfer it to another container and wash your mortar and pestle thoroughly. Turmeric stains, so you don’t want to let it sit for too long or everything will be yellow.

To make the tea, take a heaping teaspoon of paste and dissolve it in 8 ounces of hot water. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon and a healthy amount of black pepper (trust me on the pepper) and enjoy a drink that is sweet, earthy, and nicely spiced. It’s a warming tea, and one that can help with digestive problems and general inflammation.

As a final note: the Japanese swear by turmeric-based drinks to prevent and recover from hangovers. I quit drinking awhile back, so I haven’t had the opportunity to put this idea to the test. One of our local herb and natural products sellers, Maison Terre, sells a hangover tea that has turmeric as an ingredient, so any of you interested in trying it should get some and let me know if it helps. For more health benefit claims about the spice, check out the turmeric page over on World’s Healthiest Foods. Happy cooking!

photo 1(6)

White trash enchiladas

pbeerI’ve been known to cook fancy, and I’ve been known to cook trashy. This “recipe” is decidedly in the “trashy” column, but it’s so tasty that you might want to try it for yourself. Enchiladas aren’t exactly considered high-brow fare in even the best of times — and these little bundles of joy really take the cake for white-trash glory. They’re quick, they’re cheap, and they hit the sort of guilty spot that I just love.

White Trash Enchiladas

  • 2 cans chicken. Yes, cans. Canned chicken is found in the supermarket with all those other great white trash items — tuna fish, Vienna sausages, potted meat, and Spam.
  • 8 (or so) flour tortillas. Because you aren’t going to use traditional corn tortillas in a dish like this.
  • 1 block cream cheese.
  • 1 can green enchilada sauce. Old El Paso makes a fine version for this dish.
  • Shredded cheese
  • 1 lime, juiced (optional)
  • Chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, red pepper

photo 2(9)Open your cans of chicken, drain one of them. Glop them into a skillet and heat until the juice starts to boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the lime juice and as much seasoning as you want, going heaviest on the chili powder. Simmer this concoction until the liquid is almost gone, stirring frequently — you’ll want to kind of mush the chicken around with a spatula to get it nice and chopped.

Once the liquid has almost all boiled off, add the block of cream cheese and stir the dickens out of everything until you’re left with a mass of goo that doesn’t look all that great but tastes pretty good. Divide the goo onto the tortillas and roll them up. Place rolled tortillas into a baking dish, splash on the green sauce, then top with shredded cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted and the edges of the tortillas begin to crisp. Serve on a paper plate. Enjoy!

photo 4(3)

Pork belly steamed buns

IMG_0820 (587x640)The steamed bun with pork belly is the signature dish of David Chang, owner of the Momofuku restaurant group, Beard award winner, and all-around culinary badass. Chang didn’t invent the steamed bun, of course, but his take on the dish has certainly become one of the more famous dishes around the country in recent years.

Here in Little Rock, we’ve got our own steamed bun master, Justin Patterson of Southern Gourmasian. Justin’s steamed buns come with shredded pork shoulder, Balinese chicken, or braised beef short rib, and while I’ve never eaten the Momofuku buns, I’ve packed away enough of Justin’s to know that they’re something pretty incredible. So it takes chutzpah on my part to come along with a steamed bun post, doesn’t it?

Well, I didn’t do my pork belly exactly like David Chang, and I used store-bought buns, so I won’t try to say that what we did here is superior to anything. But they were pretty good, so I figured I’d share them with you.

Braised Pork Belly

  • IMG_08101-2 pounds pork belly. I’ve been getting mine from Mr. Chen’s on South University, but Hillcrest Artisan Meats also sells it. Belly is just a big slab of uncured bacon, and if you get yours with the rind still on, be sure to remove it.
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup white sugar

Mix your cup of salt with your cup of white sugar. Score your pork belly in a crosshatch pattern on the meaty side, then rub the salt/sugar mixture all over it. Discard the excess rub, and let the belly cure overnight in the fridge.

After the belly has cured, discard any juice that has accumulated, rinse the belly, and pat it dry. Brown the belly on all sides in a skillet until it has a nice golden color. Place the belly in a baking pan. Mix the red wine, soy sauce, and vinegar with the brown sugar and pepper flakes, then pour the mixture over the belly. Add enough water to the mix to just cover the belly (or if you have stock handy, use that). Heat your oven to around 400 degrees, cover the belly, and let it cook. Check the belly every half hour or so to make sure that there’s enough braising liquid to keep the belly almost covered. After a couple of hours, you can decrease your heat to around 350 and let the belly rock on until it’s fork tender.

Remove the belly from the pan, saving the braising liquid for another use (it makes a great addition to beans or soup). Slice the pork belly thin, and serve on steamed buns with hoisin sauce and simple pickles — just slice some cucumbers thin, sprinkle them with salt and sugar, and let them sit for an hour or so in the fridge. Enjoy!